RIAA to Count Streaming Rates Toward Gold, Platinum Certification

Check the calendar: February 2016 is the time the Recording Industry Association of America woke up and embraced–or at least acknowledged– streaming music in a serious way.

On Monday, the RIAA announced it would start including the number of times a song is streamed when it certifies an album as gold or platinum. This is a radical change from the old way of doing things, in which streaming was something nice for an artist to point to, but didn’t count for anything in terms of album or single sales.

1,500 streams = 10 track sales = 1 album sale

As of February 1, RIAA will tally “on-demand audio and video streams and a track sale equivalent in Gold and Platinum Album Award,” the organization says. This change follows a move made in 2013, in which on-demand streams were included in consideration of its Digital Single award. Now, an artist that reaches Gold (1/2 million records sold), Platinum (1 million) and multi-Platinum (2 million) benchmarks will represent both sales and streams for singles and album certification.

“For nearly six decades, whether it’s vinyl, CDs, downloads or now streams, the Gold & Platinum Program has adapted to recognize the benchmarks of success in an evolving music marketplace,” said Cary Sherman, chairman and CEO of RIAA, in a statement:

We know that music listening – for both for albums and songs – is skyrocketing, yet that trend has not been reflected in our album certifications.  Modernizing our Album Award to include music streaming is the next logical step in the continued evolution of Gold & Platinum Awards, and doing so enables RIAA to fully reward the success of artists’ albums today.

As a result of this change, 17 albums are receiving album awards, including Alt-J “An Awesome Wave,” as Gold; Kendrik Lamar‘s “To Pimp a Butterfly” as Platinum; Elle King‘s “Love Stuff” as Gold; Hozier‘s self-titled album as Platinum; Michael Jackson‘s “Thriller” as 32-times Multi-Platinum; and The Weeknd‘s “Beauty Behind the Madness” as 2X Multi-Platinum, among others.

150 on-demand streams = 1 download

“After a comprehensive analysis of a variety of factors—including streaming and download consumption patterns and historical impact on the program—and also consultation with a myriad of industry colleagues, the RIAA set the new Album Award formula of 1,500 on-demand and/or video song streams = 10 track sales = 1 album sale,” the organization explains. “Also effective today [Feb. 1], RIAA’s Digital Single Award ratio will be updated from 100 on-demand streams = 1 download to 150 on-demand streams = 1 download to reflect streaming’s enormous growth in the two plus years since that ratio was set.”

Not everyone in the music industry was happy with the news. Take Anthony Tiffith, CEO of Top Dawg Entertainment, who posted these tweets late Monday afternoon:


As Vulture notes, RIAA is making this massive change at a time when artists are loudly demanding streams be counted toward album awards. “Last year, Nicki Minaj argued that her latest album, The Pinkprint, would already be at least triple platinum were all her streaming numbers factored in. (She says a March court date has been set to hear her complaint),” Vulture reports. “Meanwhile, the RIAA has agreed to recognized Rihanna’s latest album Anti as platinum based on the 1 million prepaid albums she sold courtesy of Samsung.”

Billboard, however, is not following suit and has reportedly decided it will not count Rhianna’s sales toward her chart placement, showing that not all industry titans are ready to embrace change. It is worth noting that Billboard has “recognized album equivalents since 2014,” Vulture says.

And just for fun, here’s some year-end album stats for 2015 from RIAA:





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